Checklist for viewing a prospective house?
November 11, 2019 7:20 AM   Subscribe

We might be moving and thus looking for a new house. But it's been close to 2 decades since we've been house hunting and we're feeling kinda lost/overwhelmed with what to check for when viewing a prospective house. Anyone got a link a good checklist to use as a starting point?

It's fine to assume we're total newbs. Like we were looking at house and realize I should be checking the breaker box for 150-200 amps. And literally touching/turning on/opening every single thing I can, just to check, aka trust nothing and no one in this process, heh.
posted by Brandon Blatcher to Home & Garden (11 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Is the house on a slab? If so, when was it built? If it was built before, say, the 21st century, the odds are really good that all the drainage plumbing under the slab is cast iron, and, eventually, it will corrode and fail.

I've seen homes built as recently as the mid-70s experience major collapses of the drain lines under the slab. Fixing a failed drain line will cost thousands and will require jackhammering open the slab. Thing is, if one branch of a cast iron system fails, chances are good that other branches are on their way to failing, too.

Slab homes built more recently will (or, at least should) have drain lines made of heavy PVC and, thus, will have a better service life.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:40 AM on November 11, 2019

Buying or renting? If buying, make sure you get a home inspection and do some checking about the inspector your realtor recommends (you don’t want a “just check the boxes” inspector, even if you have to spend a little more, and make sure the inspector doesn’t have connections to the seller’s agent and their agency). If you’re in a competitive market, you don’t need to do this through a home inspection contingency—you can usually squeeze it in during the few days after you make your earnest money deposit but before you are locked in or even before you place a bid. The example you gave us is something the home inspector should be doing. It depends on your region, but after a rainy year in mine I’d really want to stress that the inspector look for water damage and possible drainage issues.
posted by sallybrown at 7:40 AM on November 11, 2019

For a buyer, Your job is to see whether you like the house, keep an eye out for really obvious stuff like doors not fitting, suspicious stains on the ceilings and floor that could indicate water damage, maybe check if the water pressure is good and the drains drain. If you actually like it, then you get a good inspector in to actually find your problems, because you don't have the expertise to do it, and even if you did you'd want a second set of eyes. In a non competitive environment, the inspection can be a post offer thing. In a competitive one (which is what I had) we got rush plumbing and house inspectors in before the offer deadline so we knew roughly what was up.
posted by wotsac at 8:19 AM on November 11, 2019 [5 favorites]

Update: this is buying, for us to live and a inspection is absolutely gonna happen.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:28 AM on November 11, 2019 [2 favorites]

I don't have a comprehensive checklist but, one thing I think people should do is drive by the house during multiple times of day if you can. Is the road noise unbearable during rush hour? Do the neighbors have high-powered yard lights that are always on? Or are they holding band practice in their thin-walled garage at 9 pm?
posted by skycrashesdown at 8:37 AM on November 11, 2019 [3 favorites]

I used Before You Buy! when I was in the research and planning phase of house hunting and it was a good resource. It is a step-by-step guide and does include several comprehensive checklists. It covers the entire process from starting your initial search to closing day and getting the keys.
posted by Lady Sugar Maple at 8:47 AM on November 11, 2019 [3 favorites]

There's a bunch of mechanical stuff you need to check out—how's the foundation? How old is the roof and when will it need replacing? Stuff like that.

But also consider, even if the house is mechanically perfect, what living in it would be like in relation to the rest of the world. How far will you commute to work? How long will it take to get to the grocery store and other routine services? (When I was in the market, my wife and I would map out the house, commutes, and routine services before we bothered to schedule a visit.) What are the neighbors like? Can you hear freeway noise from the backyard, and if so, does that bother you?

Probably the most important piece of advice is this: don't let yourself get emotionally attached to a bad investment. I bought my first house mostly based on a gut decision, and I got lucky that there was nothing that made it a bad deal, but in hindsight, I realize I kind of dodged a bullet.
posted by adamrice at 9:23 AM on November 11, 2019 [2 favorites]

But also consider, even if the house is mechanically perfect, what living in it would be like in relation to the rest of the world. How far will you commute to work? How long will it take to get to the grocery store and other routine services?

Yes, in my opinion all this is way more important than whether or not a faucet will turn on or even if the roof is in decent shape, which is something your home inspector should be judging. Close to parks, are there sidewalks, close to good employment, hospitals. How far away is the school if you will need those? Do you want to be driving 30 minutes to the grocery store at 6:00pm?

Also check the layout. Are the bedrooms too close to one another? Too many/too few stairs?
posted by The_Vegetables at 9:42 AM on November 11, 2019

How close is a market you would shop at. For 20 years, I lived less than a 5 minute walk of neighborhood market. It had most everything I needed. I didn't have to shop in advance for anything; if I needed something, I just went to the market right then.
posted by ShooBoo at 4:12 PM on November 11, 2019

Maybe not on your minds 20 years ago: aging in place home considerations (for example, the convenience of a first-floor full bath). Linking both general checklist, & what to clock now (ex. - hallway width) in case of eventual remodel needs.

Maybe check local flight paths (though skycrashesdown's excellent tip might tell you all you need to know), and a current flood plain map (for attendant insurance issues).
posted by Iris Gambol at 8:56 PM on November 11, 2019

Thanks all, the various answers helped remind what I should be focusing and what to leave to the pros!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:32 AM on November 15, 2019

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